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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

J.M. Thorburn, D.C.M



John Myles Thorburn was born on April 20th, 1886 in Kerrie, Victoria to John Myles Thorburn Snr (1847-1936) and Mary Ann Farro (1850-1908). He was one of 10 children that the couple would have between 1870 to 1891 (5 daughters, 5 sons though he'd be the only one to serve).
John Myles Thorburn and Mary Ann Farro Wedding Photo

John and Mary Ann Thorburn

His mother, Mary Ann Farro died on October 10th, 1908 in Romsey, Victoria.
On February 7th, 1914 one of John's siblings (Mary Ann 'Mollie' Thorburn) would die in Romsey, Victoria, the only one to die before the war.

John Myles Thorburn was 28 and 4 months old when he volunteered for service at South Melbourne, Victoria on August 22nd, 1914 to serve in the Australian Imperial Force. He was swiftly assigned to D Company, 5th Battalion (SN 656) under Lieutenants Daniel Aston Luxton [Coy Cmdr] and Alexander Rossiter Caughey as well as Second Lieutenant Thomas Hastie. All the officers would survive and be promoted and decorated in the war.

John Myles Thorburn in Army Uniform.WW1
John Myles Thorburn, probably before embarkation.

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Lieutenant [Later Brigadier] Luxton [CMG, DSO, VD]
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Lieutenant [Later Major] Caughey [CdeG]
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Second Lieutenant [Later Major] Hastie [MC]

Thorburn in Egypt, presumably 1915.

After some months training at Broadmeadows Camp, the 5th Battalion's original contingent would leave Melbourne on October 21st, 1914 under Lieutenant Colonel D.S Wanliss [CMG, MiD, VD]. They guarded prisoners of the S.M.S Emdem for a brief period [Early November 1914] before arriving in Egypt on December 2nd. It is unclear how the 5th Battalion reorganized their Companies in January 1915, so it remains unknown where/how/when Thorburn initially landed on Gallipoli, though it was most likely April 25th. Lieutenant Colonel Wanliss led his battalion onto Gallipoli apart of the second wave after Third Brigade was "ripped to ribbons" only an hour or so earlier. Thorburn would be promoted on May 2nd to Corporal.
Lieutenant Colonel David Sydney Wanliss, later CMG, MiD, VD.
Battalion marching to Church Parade. LtCol Wanliss can be seen leading.

After landing and consolidating on the ANZAC Cove sector of Gallipoli, Thorburn and his brigade were assigned to Cape Helles on May 6th, 1915, and took part in fighting at the Second Battle of Krithia which ended with the Turks repelling the entire brigade. After this folly, Thorburn would be made a Sergeant on the 9th, then returned to ANZAC Cove on May 16th for a spell. They ended up at Lone Pine taking part in the August Offensive. Thorburn seems to have been present there, and then went into hospital on August 14th with Gastro-enteritis, discharged to duty only 4 days later. He'd go back into hospital in late September, came back to Gallipoli, then was evacuated near the end of the Campaign to Alexandria. In February 1916, he was assigned to the 57th Battalion which was a pup to the 5th. He went into hospital on February 25th with Mumps, rejoining the unit on March 14th. On April 19th, 1916 he was to be Company Sergeant Major with the rank of Warrant Officer Class II. He arrived in France on June 23rd, and saw action on July 19th at Fromelles.. the battalion was merely in a supporting role, suffering only light casualties compared to other Battalions like the 32nd, 53rd and so on. During the battle at Petillon, Coy. Sgt. Major Thorburn performed a deed which would award him the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His citation reads..
"At Petillon during the period 19/20th July 1916, Co. Sgt. Major THORBURN untiringly in his efforts to rescue and help the wounded. The bravery and chill displayed in getting men in from the furthest possible points are worthy of the greatest praise."
Following Fromelles, he transferred to the 60th Battalion on August 12th, being immediately promoted to Second Lieutenant a few days earlier on August 9th. 20 days later on the 29th, he would be officially awarded the D.C.M for his actions. In early 1917, he was present for the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line which led to a promotion to Lieutenant on March 1st. He went into hospital on May 29th due to sickness for a brief stint before rejoining the Battalion on June 5th, 1917. He went to No.3 Army Preping (?) School on July 9th, returning on July 22nd. On July 29th, Lieutenant Thorburn became a Bombing Officer for the Battalion. 
Officers of the 60th Battalion, Thorburn D.C.M is back row, fourth from left. December 20th, 1917.

On January 30th, 1918 he was seconded for service in an Overseas Training Brigade. He arrived back to his old Battalion [60th] on around August 26th. He appears in the diary of Lieutenant Hector Brewer, on the date of September 4th. The entry reads..

"4 AM. Reports from Captain Roberts in charge of last nights operation states that the advance was carried out by successfully by "B" and "C" Companies under Capt. Cahill and Lieut. Thorburn in the direction of St. Denis Wood. 12 noon. I was ordered to report to Staff Captain 15th Bde. at 2 p.m. I took L/Cpl. Grinter with me again and went off. We found the Bde. at lunch and was given a good meal by one of the menials there."
No photo description available.
Lieutenant Hector Brewer

After a long service with the 60th, he transferred to the 59th Battalion on September 25th, 1918 after most of the fighting was done. In early November, he went home on 1914 ANZAC Leave as one of the few originals of ANZAC who had actually survived the war, and he marched out to England on November 9th, 1918.. 2 days before the war would end. He started his return to Australia on December 14th, disembarking at 3rd M.D on January 29th, 1919. His appointment was terminated on March 31st, 1919. For his service, he would be given the DCM, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
John Myles Thorburn 2P1060883
John Myles Thorburn, both post-war photographs I believe.
DCM and 1915 trio – 11th Middlesex Regt. (wounded) – DCM Medals
The medal set that Thorburn would be entitled to

After the war, John married Ethel May Mulrooney (1893-1946) in 1920. The couple would have 3 children (2 daughters, 1 son). John would not volunteer for the Second World War, and his wife would die one year after the war would end. In 1968, John was a rubber worker on 26 Hammond Street in Thornbury East and presumably living alone. He died on November 18th, 1973 in Heidelberg, Victoria at the age of 87, outliving all of his siblings.

Edited by tankengine888


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